Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice at Twin Cities Friends Meetinghouse

Eurydice - Publicity photo by Scott Pakudaitis

Last night I had the pleasure to attend the first performance of the first production of the Prospero Theatre Company, a group composed, so far as I can tell, of three “founding members”, actors Rebekah Henrickson and MaryLynn Mennicke, along with director Kate Wulf. For their premiere, Prospero is tackling Eurydice (at the Friends Meeting House, 1725 Grand Ave., St. Paul, through Feb 21, Sarah Ruhl‘s meander through the rough shoals of love, death and rebirth. This is shoestring theater: the space is a big square church meeting room, with steel chairs no doubt fetched in from a storage room, no set, a grand total of four (4) lighting instruments, a fledgling acting company composed of artists just out of or in many cases still in college.

It all works surprisingly well, largely because of MaryLynn Mennicke’s lovely take on the title character, Eurydice. Mennicke’s natural and naive sweetness serves the play perfectly. She displays a newborn quality, as though her character is just waking up from a long sleeping beauty nap. This creates a sense of discovery which animates every scene. I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

Also good is Jameson Jon Baxter as the lyrically intense Orpheus. His attempts to communicate with the dead Eurydice through the magic medium of his music are wonderful. I also greatly enjoyed Josiah Laubenstein‘s arch and angular Nasty Man, followed by his malicious Child – whose main job seems to be procuring partners for his sexually voracious mother, played in a very nice turn by Rachel Kuhnle.

The play starts promisingly, with Eurydice’s marriage to the ever-sweet Orpheus, followed by her seduction away from her marriage party by the Nasty Man with a letter from Eurydice’s dead father. But then Eurydice herself suddenly dies and from this point on the play proceeds in fits and starts, with interesting ideas introduced – the language of the dead, for example – but undeveloped. Orpheus’s need to find his wife in the Land of the Dead is deeply felt, but their final encounter feels anti-climactic and doesn’t satisfy. The second deaths of Eurydice and her father, caused by bathing in the River Lethe, feel tacked on. All in all, I found this play unaffecting.

Next up for Prospero: a production of Christopher Durang’s wickedly funny The Baby With The Bathwater, in May. This is a terrific piece and I’m looking forward to it.

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